Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Modern School ‘Daze’Consider yourself a card-carrying geezer if you’re stunned to discover school now starts in early August, in most parts of the country.

Back in my day (which is a classic geezer saying, also a cue for non-geezers’ eyes to glaze over), the words “August” and “school” were mutually exclusive. August had no more connection to education than June or July. Instead, it merely was the last of the vacation triumvirate.

Not anymore.

By early August—a time when we juvenile Baby Boomers had barely detected the first inkling that a new scholastic year loomed “somewhere” on the distant horizon—schools are going full bore all over the map. Some even earlier than that.

Driving home from the Grainger County Tomato Festival last July, I noticed the sign in front of Joppa Elementary School. It said classes were to begin in just a few days. I dang-near ran off Highway 11W in sympathetic shock.

Oh, well; at least it’s refreshing to know some things in redneck academia never change. Specifically, the ol’ hidden comic book trick. It is alive and well and still being practiced.

If you geeze, you know what I’m talking about. This was a ruse carried out in elementary and high school study halls (do they still have those things?) and libraries.

Pretending to be absorbed in the business at hand, the student would stash a comic book in the middle of his—back then, it was almost always a he—textbook. Then he would stare into the volume as if entranced. With deft use of fingertips, the student could turn the pages of the comic book just the same as a textbook. Thus, “The Adventures of Tom and Jerry” could be enjoyed under the guise of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

What if the teacher or librarian started making exploratory rounds? No problem.

The student would calmly close his book and begin “taking notes.” Which, in reality, were little more than scribbles as Old Lady Jones paced the aisles. As soon as Old Lady Jones returned to her seat at the front of the room, the “reading” resumed.

How does this relate to the present?

At the aforementioned tomato festival, a teacher confessed her secret on how to survive boring in-service sessions at the start of every school year.

“For two or three weeks ahead of in-service, just clip the Jumble and crossword puzzles out of the newspaper,” she said. “Paste them in your notebook and then work them during the program. That way, you’ll always be the one ‘taking the most notes’.”

Dang. Sure wish I’d thought of that trick in Old Lady Jones’ class.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel.
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